US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (L) and ranking member Senator Jack Reed visit with Secretary of Defense James Mattis before a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill June 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has acknowledged that the United States is “not winning” in the war in Afghanistan.
Facing tough questions from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, the Pentagon chief admitted Tuesday that the US forces were not performing well in Afghanistan.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” said Mattis. “We will correct this as soon as possible.”
He made the comments in response to McCain’s criticism about lack of an Afghanistan strategy after six months into the administration of US President Donald Trump.
“We want a strategy, and I don’t think that’s a hell of a lot to ask,” the Arizona Republican senator told Mattis. “We’re now six months into this administration. We still haven’t got a strategy for Afghanistan. It makes it hard for us to support you when we don’t have a strategy. We know what the strategy was for the last eight years: Don’t lose.”
US Army General John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, said recently that several thousand troops should be added to the roughly 8,400 already stationed in the war-ravaged country to support the Afghan security forces against Taliban militants.
“I believe by mid-July, we’ll be able to brief you in detail,” Mattis stated. “We’re putting it together now and ... there are actions being taken to make certain that we don’t pay a price for the delay. But we recognize the need for urgency, and your criticism is fair.”
Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of a motorcycle bomb explosion in front of the Jami Mosque in Herat on June 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
What would winning look like?
Asked by Republican Senator Roger Wicker about what “winning” would look like, General Mattis said the local security forces should be able to “handle the violence” in Afghanistan.
A truck bombing in the heart of the capital Kabul killed more than 150 people on May 31.
“I was confident that within the first 30 to 60 days we would have a strategy from which to start working,” McCain said. “So, all I can tell you is that unless we get a strategy from you, you’re going to get a strategy from us.”
Meanwhile. a US official said that President Trump has given the Pentagon the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, opening the door for future troop increases.
The official told Reuters that no immediate decision had been made about the number of troops, which now stands at about 8,400.
The US-led occupying force officially announced to end its combat operations against the Taliban in the country at the end of 2014, and its current mission is to “train, advise, and assist” Afghan troops.
Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as "Obama's war".
But now the Trump administration is planning to deploy thousands of more troops to the war-ravaged country, signaling a policy shift.

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